Saturday, 23 September 2017

Diana talks to the inimitable Poppet

Hi Poppet. I am thrilled that you agreed to talk to me....

I am sure that you are tired of being asked the usual questions that would be interviewers ask authors, so hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions!
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
The answer is cake (lol)
What is the genre you are best known for?
Dark / horror romance

If your latest book Sinnergog Part 1 was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role? 

''I love that cover, it embodies: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil''
PS: Most folks 'miss that' subtlety

That's a great question. It's a sad and brutal tale which follows from childhood to adulthood. I can't even imagine making a child act any of those scenes, but I suppose the adult Christopher could be played by someone trendy and popular. Honestly I have no clue because that's not my area of expertise. I'll leave the casting to the professionals who know what they're doing.

What made you choose this genre?
Another good question. No one has ever asked me that before. If I answer honestly I'll offend a lot of people.
I chose this genre not deliberately, but I wrote the first book to make a point. I wrote this series in its entirety to highlight how mankind has twisted scripture to suit his own agenda (this is especially prevalent in politics these days too) – and also because when I read the Old Testament (and even some of the new, Saul-Paul's work especially), I am horrified by what 'God' sanctions and condones. He tells his people to murder, to kidnap virgins for themselves (Judges 21:21 /Lamentations 5:11 / Numbers 31:9, he makes the people of Israel buy back their newborn children from the Levite priests (Numbers 18:15), he sanctions stoning to death sinners, he has a moment where he makes them sacrifice their newborns 'to prove that he is God'*, he tells them to wage war and commit murder (despite that breaking one of the 10 commandments) – and when I read that I know it's no God I could possibly respect. Most folks gloss over the nasty stuff, they don't want to look at it that hard, they simply follow this ritual and religion because they were raised believing that to do otherwise would utterly condemn them. I wrote this series to show the reader what I would see if we met God in the flesh, if we knew this guy face to face and listened to his orders, and put under the microscope his cruelty and capriciousness. The series has moments of redemption, but alas like most brainwashed generations the damage done to young and innocent children shatters the psyche early on, leaving us alone in a world with broken and dangerous people. (On this matter I've written a non-fiction novel highlighting the issues I have with this religious text as a guideline for humanity to follow – and we wonder why we don't have peace on Earth. That novel is titled The Nephilim Cartel.)
***Then I gave them laws that are not good and commands that do not bring life. I let them defile themselves with their own offerings and I let them sacrifice their first born sons. This was to punish them and show them that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 20:25.
The Douay Reims bible says; in that they caused to pass through the fire all the firstborn, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know, understand, and realise that I am the Lord.
The share of the community was the same as that for the soldiers: 337,500 sheep and goats, 36,000 cattle, 30,500 donkeys, and 16,000 virgins. From this share Moses took one out of every fifty prisoners and animals, and as the Lord had commanded, gave them to the Levites who were in charge of the Lord's Tent. Numbers 31:41
And watch; if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and catch every man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh and go to the land of Benjamin. (Judges 21:21)

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
With the Darkroom Saga (series) my experience with religious zealots was all the inspiration required, my other works are mostly inspired by dreams.

Favourite picture or work of art?
The Sistine Chapel

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Yes, and yes. I am planning to write a dystopian and futuristic novel, with huge metaphysical and sci-fi overtones. However, this novel will be written under a mystery pseudonym so my readers won't even know I wrote it. My publisher already knows about it though

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I like that you choose to use the words 'writing seriously'. I started writing seriously in my early 20s, and was published in magazines by the time I was 25. I spent 6 years doing that before turning to fiction full time (but by that time I had written a series of over 1000000 words.) I wanted to be an author from the age of 12, and wrote my first novel when I was 14. So definitely a conscious decision. But, the publishing world has changed a lot since I was 12, it's now excessively competitive and very easily influenced by bloggers and public opinion.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
LOVE it!

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
I make a playlist for each novel and listen to it on repeat (with headphones on) for the entirety of it being written.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
The muse whips me hard I am her servant.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Acting, or archeology.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Coffee, red.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
It depends on the book. Some novels I know completely from start to finish before writing the first word.
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I'm really not fussy about fonts. I just follow the rules (cue eye roll).

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
The Key of Solomon – (there's a version online which is clearly falsely translated) – or the grimoire belonging to Honorius of Thebes (or even the original Book of Jubilees, or that "new" bible discovered written in gold, which is completely different to the one considered 'god's word' today.) I also wouldn't mind getting to read in one cohesive document everything ever written by Leonardo Da Vinci.
(As an aside, Diana learned Classical Greek and Latin in order to read the earliest known version of the Septuagint for herself, rather than relying on translation...)
A late aside from Poppet: In fact to add to that one question, I'd love to read everything ever written by Nikola Tesla too..

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
This does happen sometimes. Usually it's female characters behaving like feeble nitwits. I'm an alpha female who doesn't condone victim mentality. I just write it as fast as I can so the plot can get back to business.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
I do a ton of research. My life feels dedicated to research (I write a lot of nonfiction), but alas my budget means all research is done via books especially ordered in for me because they're never in stock, or via the internet. If I place a character or plot in a place I've never been, I even drive around the neighbourhood using Google maps plotting routes and noting shops along the way to give credence to the setting.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
No, I let it unfold as it should. If one character suddenly becomes domineering, I go with it.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
The story has to be credible, life does not. So often life happens, and I say to hubby, if I wrote this no one would ever believe it and I'd get 1 stars for cruddy writing. I keep it credible using logic or physics to explain that which seems supernatural. Supernatural however is a matter of opinion. If we can transmit photons across space now, imagine what is 'possible in real life' in the future. I think everything is possible, it's simply our limited understanding (currently) that makes the possible seem 'far fetched'. Perception is everything.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
Lol, I find this question ambiguous. I don't believe that fact and fiction can become blurred. I know the facts, and I interject them into fiction as part of the plot.
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
I love them all. Some characters I do not like, yet even in their madness I have empathy for them.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Nonfiction mostly.
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Ummm. Holy water? (lol)
Last but not least... favourite author?
I have a lot of favourites, this isn't a cut and dried question for me. I love to cook, and Nigella Lawson is my favourite foodie author. My favourite health food author is Dr Andrew Weil. I love Charles de Lint, for being the first urban fantasy author I read. I love Tolkien and Rowling for the alternative realities they presented. I love George Orwell, Charles Dickens, and William Golding, for showing the basest sides of humanity and highlighting what we needed to acknowledge. But then I also love authors like Helen Fielding for giving me a good laugh. Mostly now I support indie authors. They need champions in their corner, and indie publishers, because these folks are changing the future, making dreams possible for everyone. However I also love a good metaphysical read and I absolutely love James Redfield, and Deepak Chopra. I also love the action classic authors, like Eric Van Lustbader, Desmond Bagley, Ian Fleming, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King.
Thank you Diana, this was definitely different. I apologise for not being more mainstream and making this a quick and easy Q and A  Poppet, I am delighted to have such an exciting and informative talk about such a range of subjects. Thank you.

About Sinnergog: Part 1 (Darkroom Saga Book 6)
Part I
Sacrifice wears many masks. In the claustrophobic walls of the Sinnergog untold horrors splatter the walls. It was created as a sanctuary for those possessed by Satan, the last refuge for exorcism and redemption. Named after a temple to worship god, the only thing worshiped here is trauma.

Christopher Ward: It occurred to me that the manifestation of God among mankind was unique in itself. Did He know he was god? Was he always different? Is that why I was persecuted, because Satan never rests and temptation is a rope bridge across the character chasm?

It took me years to understand I am the chosen one, and it is my legacy, my only purpose, to rid this world of evil. I’ve come for the lost, for the sinners. A reaper is not death, it is mercy, it is love, it is compassion. So I taught my firstborn son to show mercy, I taught him to give sinners a chance to repent, I taught him that Eve can’t help herself. If it’s forbidden the female will crave it, and she’ll drag good men down with her into her cesspit of cunning evil. Me and my kind stand between her and good men. We are the intervention, we are divinity and nothing can stop this. Satan has no power here, I am all powerful.

Part II
Victor Ward: knows his father, the Alpha who becomes god, who is so narcissistic and deranged he cannot tell fiction from fantasy - must be stopped. Victor spent his life in service to his father’s cult, but now the veil has lifted from his sight and he knows good from evil, he knows his father is the biggest crime lord of our time, and yet Christopher cannot recognize that he is the personification of the very thing he claims to thwart.

There is only one man who can stop god. His son. Will he die for our sins? Will they follow the script? Or will Victor become the Lucifer of our time? Victor is ostracised from his Eden, and it’s time for payback. The hunt is on. Their egos have grown, they know how to make bodies disappear, they know how to enslave the powerful with drugs and blackmail, and this time the massacre will not end until the father and the son become one, or one destroys the other.

Once, Christ threw men out of the temple, because they desecrated it. Now Victor must exorcise Christ from the temple, because now Christ-opher is the one who destroys all that is holy.

This is the final installment in the Darkroom Saga. Now we learn the origins of pain, and how it perpetrates the legacy for seven generations.

About Poppet:

International bestselling author, Poppet writes romantic horror, romantic comedy, non-fiction, paranormal romance, and is currently published with Wild Wolf Publishing, Tirgearr Publishing, and Eibonvale Press.

Poppet was first published in Mobius Poetry Magazine, and then spent years writing natural health articles for The SA Journal of Natural Medicine and Renaissance Magazine, before turning her attention to writing fiction, seeing her reach the number 1 spot on Authonomy - run by Harper Collins. Interviewed by journalist David Kentner, Poppet gained exposure across North America with the release of her debut novel Darkroom. Previously published by Night Publishing, Endaxi Press, and Thorstruck Press, Poppet now has more than 50 titles to her credit.

Poppet turned to writing full time after becoming paralysed by Guillian Barré Syndrome. She still takes one day at a time, living a life where joy and peace are her main focus, leaving drama for her novels only.

You can follow Poppet here ...

© Diana Milne January 2017 © (Poppet, August 2017)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Heroines of the Medieval World by Sharon Bennett Connolly: a brief review by Diana Milne

Since its beginning, I have been an avid reader of Sharon Bennett Connolly's blog, 'History - the Interesting Bits'in which the author finds and explores little known people and situations throughout history and blogs knowledgeably about them. 

When I heard that she was writing a book showcasing the lives of women throughout history, women who have rarely been heard of and never had a voice of their own, I was delighted, not just because I genuinely felt that this author would do an exceptional writing job, but also because the role of a woman as a subject in history is so rarely covered and they, as gender, played major roles in so many situations, not just here in Britain but on the wider world stage, often changing the course of history very much from behind the scenes. 

So many people never look behind the men folk of these ages and consider that the lives and actions of medieval women were totally restricted by the men who ruled the homes, countries and world in which they lived. It is so easy to think that all women from this era were downtrodden, retiring and obedient little housewives, whose sole purpose was to give birth to children (preferably little boys) and serve their husbands. In this groundbreaking book, Heroines of the Medieval World, the author looks at the lives of the women who  defied social mores and made not just their own future, but the future of nations, changing lives, society and even the fate of nations.

Some of the women are famous, like the Maid of Orleans, but others I had never heard of and have now become fascinated by, Maud de Braose, for example and Ms Bennett Connolly's own favourite, Nicholaa de la Haye, who defended Lincoln Castle in the name of King.
As the author says, ''Heroines come in many different forms, and it is no less true for medieval heroines. They can be found in all areas of medieval life; from the dutiful wife and daughter, to religious devotes and to warriors and rulers. What makes them even more unique and heroic, compared to those of today, are the limitations placed on them by those who directed their lives; their fathers, husbands, priests and kings. Women have always been an integral part of history, although when reading through the chronicles of the medieval world, you would be forgiven if you did not know it. We find that the vast majority of written references are focussed on men. The chronicles were written by men and, more often than not, written for men. It was men who ruled countries, fought wars, made laws and treaties, dominated religion and guaranteed the continued survival of their world. It was the men, if anyone, who could read, who were trained to rule and who were expected to fight, to defend their people and their country.''
The book is written in a friendly, easily readable style that belies the impact and interest of the words, each of which has been carefully considered to ensure that the meaning is clear to any reader of any level and maintain its academic importance and integrity. Whilst primarily it is a book aimed at adults, a child interested in history would also benefit greatly and find it an enjoyable read that could be dipped in and out of and also kept as a valuable reference book. The book is carefully referenced and indexed and I can see this being a valuable ‘go to’ book for school projects as well as being an enjoyable read with its well defined concept and clear, convincing language. 

The author has not just attempted to strike out from the pack with something different and new, she has succeeded with this trail blazing book.

Such is the popularity of the author and the subject, that the first run of books sold out on the first day, a major achievement for any author. The presses are working overtime now to fill all orders. Buy this book! You will not be disappointed.

Ms Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years and studied history academically and just for fun – she even worked as a tour guide at historical sites - and is a keen contributor to many online history groups. Her passion for the subject shines through in every word she writes, together with her extensive knowledge for the history of the Mediaeval and Renaissance eras.  

She is currently working on her second non-fiction book, Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest, which will be published by Amberley in late 2018.

A fluent linguist, Bennett Connolly was born in Yorkshire, and studied at University in Northampton before working in Customer Service roles at Disneyland in Paris and Eurostar in London.She is now having great fun, passing on her love of the past to her son, hunting dragons through Medieval castles or exploring the hidden alcoves of Tudor Manor Houses.

© Diana Milne September 15th 2017

Monday, 18 September 2017

St George's Chapel: Windsor Castle, part 2

The College of St. George at Windsor Castle, in Royal Windsor, Berkshire, England, was founded by Edward III in 1348 as a body of priests and lay men who were dedicated to  daily prayer for the Monarch and all the faithful. Over 650 year later it still so remains, services, open to all, being held everyday of the year. The times of prayer, music, silence and readings follow a strict liturgical pattern through the week and throughout the church year. 

The chapel choir, comprising boys aged between seven and thirteen, sing regularly at eight services a week during term time and is described as 'an angelic joy' by one fortunate person who attended.  

Choir Practice
The boys attend St. George's School, situated just outside the castle.

The alms box
Pilgrims and visitors have visited the chapel since it was first built, many in the late 15th and 16th century coming to pray at the burial site of Henry VI, a very devout and pious man, considered by many to be a saint . There is a pilgrims' alms box that stands beside the the tomb that dates to c1480, and was made by John Tresilian.

Pilgrims were also attracted to the chapel by the Cross Gneth, which is now represented by a ceiling boss at the SE end of the chapel. The original, which disappeared in the 16th century, came about by a story being told of  a priest named Neotus, bringing back a piece of the one true cross to from the Holy Land to Wales, where it became a national treasure, before falling into the hands of of King Edward I in 1283. It was given to the chapel by Edward III after his creation of the Order of the Grater.

On my recent visit, I stood transfixed staring up at this ancient artifact, resplendent in it's colours of blue and red and covered with shimmering gold leaf. If I, a twenty first century woman with technology at  her finger tips, can find such power in this image, I can only begin to imagine how it would have appeared, in flickering taper light to my ancestors...

Cross Gneth

The architecture of the the chapel is not from the 13th century but from the two following centuries. When in 1348 Edward III founded the previously mentioned order of chivalry, The Order of the Garter, he also founded the 'college', not the college as we know it today but the group of clergy and laity who lived together as a community. His Grandson, Edward IV ordered the erection of the present building and chose it for his eventual burial place, where he lies with his wife, Elizabeth Woodville. It is a spectacular example of perpendicular architecture, large windows and slender pillars giving and appearance of light and delicacy, added to by the pale colour of the Taynton stone. The fan ceiling with its numerous bosses and the friezes of stone angels lining the entire chapel draw the eye up.

The highlight of the visit for me was seeing the Hasting's Chantry in the North Quire, the resting place of William, Lord Hastings*, one time friend of Edward IV, executed on June 13th 1483 with no trial by the Duke of Gloucester. The chantry hosts an early 16th century painting of the martyrdom of St Stephen.  (William, Lord Hastings is the historical character I would most like to have met.) 

The martyrdom of St George.

In part 3 of this blog on Windsor Castle, I will be talking about the state rooms and apartments.

A floor plan of the chapel.

Key to numbered locations

1 - Nave - This is a good spot to view the slender Perpendicular Gothic columns which soar up to the fan-vaulted ceiling overhead. 

1a - Cenotaph of Prince Imperial - A memorial to the son of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France, killed in the Zulu War in 1879. 

2 - Beaufort Chantry - The marble tomb of Charles Somerset (d. 1526) and his first wife. 

3 - West Nave Central - The richly decorated bosses in the roof above the nave bear the coats of arms of Henry VII, his family and court officials. 

4 - Urswick Chantry - This chantry chapel, built in 1507, commemorates Dean Urswick, confidant of Henry VII. In the chaple is a marble monument to Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, who died in childbirth in 1817. 

5 - Tomb of George V and Queen Mary 

5a- Rutland Chapel (not generally open to the public) - The chapel houses the tomb of George Manners, Lord Roos (d. 1513), and his wife Anne. 

6 - King George VI Memorial Chapel and Tomb 

7 - Hastings Chantry - Chantry chapel for Lord Hastings (d. 1483), who was executed by order of Richard III. 

8 - Edward IV's Tomb - The king (d. 1483) and Queen Elizabeth Woodville lie here. 

9 - Wrought Iron Gates - These intricate gates were designed to protect the tomb of Edward IV. 

10 - Tudor Oriel Window - The ornately carved wooden window was built by Henry VIII as a gallery for Katherine of Aragon. 

11 - Reredos and East Window - Built in 1863 as a memorial to Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. 

12 - Garter Stalls - Most of the stalls were carved 1475-1483. Each stall bears the insignia of current Knights of the Garter. Brass and copper plates bear the arms of past knights from the 14th century to the present. 

13 - Royal Vault - George II, George IV, and William IV are buried here, with other members of the royal familiy. 

14 - Tombs of Henry VIII and Charles I 

15 - Roof Bosses - At the crossing are the arms of Henry VII and those of the Garter Knights 

16 - The Royal Stalls

17 - West Window - The stained-glass window, completed in 1509, portrays 75 royals, saints, and popes. 

18 - Bray Chantry - Tomb of Sir Reginald Bray (d. 1503). 

19 - Oliver King Chapel - Oliver King was Canon of Windsor (1480-1503) and later Bishop of Bath and Wells. He was secretary to no less than 4 kings, whose portraits appear on the opposite wall. 

20 - Edward III's sword - The battle sword made for King Edward, measuring 6 feet 8 inches long. 

21 - Oxenbridge Chantry - Chantry tomb of a canon of Windsor (d. 1522). Over the door of the chapel are an Ox, a letter 'N', and a Bridge. 

22 - Henry VI's Tomb - Henry was reburied here in 1484. The tomb was the scene of reported miracles, making it a pilgrimage destination. There is an alms box made of wrought-iron beside the tomb to receive the gifts of pilgrims. 

23 - Tomb of Edward VII (d. 1910) and Queen Alexandra 

24 - Lincoln Chapel - Within the chapel is the tomb of the Earl of Lincoln (d. 1585) and his third wife. This chapel was originally dedicated to Master John Schorn (d. 1314). 

25 - East Doors - Beautiful 13th century ironwork frames the doors (built 1240), which once formed the entry to Henry III's Chapel. 

26 - Dean's Cloister - The interior tracery of the cloister was built in 1352.

* In a later blogs I will be discussing Lord Hastings in detail and also discussing the painting and the possible reasons for it hanging in Hastings' Chantry.

Images from:
Choir practice

Burial site of Henry VI
The alms box
Cross Gneth

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Diana talks to... Phillip.D.Curwood

Hello Phillip. It is really lovely to meet you. Thank you for agreeing to chat like this. I hope I have come up with some unusual questions for you!

First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!

Q. Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
A. On the bestseller list, and maybe one of my novels adapted for film or TV.

What is the genre you are best known for?
The genre I’ve been writing has classic leanings toward Bronte-style Paranormal Romance/ Horror, although my latest work will venture more into Sci fi fantasy.

If your latest book Lytefoot was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

The characters I created for this particular book were people that I actually knew, so really, and have no idea who’d play one of the five protagonists, Steven Runcombe. However, the actress Brenda Blethyn would be fitting as the guardian, Suzanne Bentley.

What made you choose this genre?
For years I’ve had a profound interest in the paranormal. My curiosity grew after living in a haunted house for 13-years of my life and witnessing things that would indeed frighten the faint-hearted.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
The character, Arabella, in my debut novel – Arabella: A Picture of Beauty - came to me quite by accident when I stumbled across a beautiful 17th-century portrait of a Lady Jane Smijth, attributed to a Sir Godfrey Kneller. Other characters are taken from my life, or off the TV.
Plots are inspired by music I listen to.

Favourite picture or work of art?
John Constable to me is the demigod of art. The landscapes he paints elicits feelings of euphoria in me and really is beyond the realm of the living.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
The novel I’m writing at this moment in time is one that I’ve always wanted to put down on paper... if there is such a thing these days. The genre is a Sci fi fantasy romance set in the years 2017 and 1973 and will be a heartfelt story, heavily laden with nostalgia from that period.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
Basically, I’ve always wanted to be a writer since a very young age, but love and life got in the way, until recently.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Love it, love it, love it!

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
Before I even think about writing, I have to eat an apple... then make a huge mug of Americano – black, no sugar. If I don’t, my writing goes asunder.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
My family comes first. And as a carer for my severely disabled daughter, she is more important to me than the books I write. (Total respect. DMM.)

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Ooh! Archaeologist. Besides myself, I love old things.

Coffee or tea?Red or white?
Black Americano coffee. Earl Grey tea. I don’t drink alcohol and haven’t done so in 30-years.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
Stories are mostly inspired by the music I listen to. From there, whatever transpires does so as if I’m watching a film in my head.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I love the smooth flow of a Freestyle Script any day.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
The only original source I know comes from a bottle.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
Like most writers, I don’t have full control over my story, or the characters within it. More often than not, it will head in a direction of its own device, which leads to many frustrating moments.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
For my latest novel, soon to be released, I did indeed go on a research trip to Helmsley in North Yorkshire. However, being a keen rambler, my feet have trodden the York Moors on many occasions this past 30 years.There is much to inspire up north!

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
I love all my characters, so bottom line – No.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
That would be a dangerous thing for a writer to do unless he is well researched and confident enough.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
This has been a secret of mine for a while now, but I have indeed fallen for one of my female characters, although I’m not saying which one... and before you say it; no, it’s not Arabella.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Classic literature - Jane Austen. H.G Wells. The Brontes. Charles Dickens... and last but not least, the great modern writer, Dan Brown.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Coffee or Earl Grey tea.
Last but not least... favourite author?
Dan Brown... I have all his works to date. He’s such an inspiring, thought provoking scribe.

About Lytefoot:

To absolve himself of his guilt, the famous crime author, Nathan Rothwell, recorded an admission on a smartphone before his death, of what really took place the night his sister and Lytefoot hall’s estate manager were murdered; his obsessive love for the ghost of the beautiful heiress, Lady Arabella Lytefoot, and his struggle coming to terms with a dark entity, so twisted by rage and jealousy because of his love for her, that he could reach out and harm those in the material world.

A year later, the phone, which was never wiped after forensics, falls into the hands of a 21-year-old trainee police officer, Steven Runcombe, after the 8-month long investigation concluded Nathan Rothwell, even in death, was still guilty of the crimes of murder.

Heeding Nathan’s story though, gave Steve a curious thirst for the supernatural, especially after also discovering his close friend, Rob Slatterley, had witnessed the smiling spectre of his girlfriend, not long after her funeral.

Armed with borrowed ghost hunting equipment and the dead author's smartphone, Steve, Rob, along with two other reluctant friends, head over to Lytefoot Park to seek the truth about the afterlife, while trying to uncover more of Nathan Rothwell’s story.

However, what they didn’t envisage, was the danger they’d put themselves in, the minute they entered the quaint Suffolk village of Thydon le Marsh, which led over to Lytefoot's encompassing 400-acre estate.

But the more they discovered, the more the park and village seemed a foreboding place to the four youngsters. A place where the shades of the past reveal themselves in unusual ways, and where reality ceased to exist long ago.

Buy Phillip's books here... they are worth it!!

© Diana Milne January 2017 © (Phillip.D.Curwood)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Heroines of the Medieval World, by Sharon Bennett Connolly: a blog and review by guest blogger Karrie Stone.

Today I welcome guest blogger Karrie Stone to The Review Blog. At The Review we have all been waiting anxiously for today, 15th September 2017, the day that sees the release of the Review's very own Sharon Bennett Connolly's book Heroines of the Medieval World, a master piece of short biographies of the long overlooked women who altered the course of history.


There is deep deep truth in the quote within Sharon Bennett Connolly's book where it says:

'Heroines come in many forms and it is no less true for medieval heroines'.

The difference then, as opposed to now, is the strict limitations put upon them by the male of the species, be it King, Father, Brother, Husband or a combination of those; the religious guidelines on how women were perceived and should behave was often laid down by Priests too.

Bearing in mind these were Monks and that their perception of womanhood in its 'purest form ' was somewhat askew when placed next to a living breathing intelligent woman, one cannot as a 21st century woman, begin to conceive or imagine the determination required to be seen and heard as a valuable human being not just a chattel .

It is true too, that when reading history, it is often written by the victor ...'To The Victor The Spoils' springs to mind , but for women it was also not really deemed necessary or that relevant to write about their achievements in detail even if a Queen. Certainly to write about their true personality, needs, mores, fears , etc was not relevant or so it seems to us now.

Regardless , women were for procreating, furthering the lineage, be it high or low, for making sure that the home was indeed their lords castle even if a farm or hovel and to be run smoothly.

However ,we do it seems, have more written information on the Nobility than we do on women further down the scale in class or status within that time....Or at least that's how it appears until one truly starts to delve as Sharon has.

When Sharon Bennett Connolly first begun her blog 'History - The Interesting Bits' I was immediately hooked by the women she wrote about , true there were the more famous or infamous ones such as the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine who introduced so much into the culture and running of not just her homeland but also Britain. She was a force of nature in a man's world .

But Sharon's quest has been to unearth with painstaking research the lesser known women. Lesser known but no less important to history. For history helps shape the world.

Maude de Braose who spoke out against the ubiquitous King John, I was slightly more aware of , but with Maude, Sharon has filled in the blanks effortlessly.

This book's Chapters are beautifully set out to lead us through the variations of the perception of a Medieval Heroine.

We have the Religious, the Scandalous, The Mistress, Disinherited, Pawns, Captive, Warriors, Rulers, Literary and one of my personal favourites, The Survivors.

One such for me is Anne of Stafford, granddaughter of Edward lll and Phillippa of Hainault, daughter to their son, Thomas of Woodstock . She had the most incredible twists and turns in her life which was seemingly a sort of footnote to history. She was married at age eight or nine to Thomas Earl of Stafford who was fifteen years her senior, then, after his death,  married to his younger brother Edmund at age nineteen.

Her father Thomas was arrested personally by the King Richard ll, only to die in captivity not long after. Possibly smothered. Thus began further losses of the family fortune, then the death of her mother Eleanor de Bohun and her unmarried sister Joan. Anne's only surviving sister Isabel took the veil and ultimately therefore Anne became the greatest heiress of the Kingdom at that time.

I could go on but this is Sharon's book and there is no doubt in my mind that once you pick this up you won't be able to stop reading about these women until the last chapter. Truth is definitely stranger and more fascinating than fiction within these lives.

Sharon has a wonderful way of writing, it appears effortless, easy and utterly fascinating.

I've been a staunch fan of history for all my life but Sharon has, in my humble opinion, truly reached the core of what really was the backbone and making , even in the seemingly quiet lives of these many ladies, of Medieval Times.

It is a book well overdue. Her research is thorough and painstaking. She took time to truly explore where these women lived where possible and the photographs are a beautiful adornment to this book.

Thank you Sharon I've learnt a lot about women I knew nothing of, gained so much insight.

So as they say dear reader, it's your turn to pick up this book, settle in and read on.


If you wish to read the Diana talks interview with Sharon, you can find it here
Diana talks to Sharon Bennett Connolly


About Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Sharon Bennett Connolly, has been fascinated by history for over 30 years now. She has studied history academically and just for fun – and even worked as a tour guide at historical sites, including Conisbrough Castle.

Born in Yorkshire, she studied at University in Northampton before working in Customer Service roles at Disneyland in Paris and Eurostar in London.

She is now having great fun, passing on her love of the past to her son, hunting dragons through Medieval castles or exploring the hidden alcoves of Tudor Manor Houses. 

For Christmas 2014, her husband gave her a blog as a gift – History ... the Interesting Bits , allowing her to indulge in that love of history. Sharon started researching and writing about the lesser-known stories and people from European history, the stories that have always fascinated. Quite by accident, she started focusing on medieval women. And in 2016 she was given the opportunity to write her first non-fiction book, Heroines of the Medieval World, which was published by Amberley in September 2017. She is currently working on her second non-fiction book, Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest, which will be published by Amberley in late 2018

Regarding the new book,  'Silk and the Sword' ...

Thank you Sharon Bennett Connolly and Karrie Stone 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Charlie Smithers: Adventures Downunder (The Charlie Smithers Collection Book 3) - a review by Diana Milne

Flashman never experienced anything like this, not even remotely!

Whether it’s because of his gift of the ‘sight,’ inherited from his dour old Hebridean mum, or simply a sorely battered noggin (a result of his master’s appalling aim)the Australias hold one of Charlie Smithers’ most intriguing adventures to date.
Pirates, great white sharks, mermaids, scorching deserts, cannibals and a small army of sadistic bushrangers are only part of the story. A mysterious gunslinging sheila with emerald green eyes, and a shocking vocabulary, is another adventure all on its own.

And throughout the tale there is the innocuous message from a ghost from Charlie’s past: “You must learn to forgive…”

Charlie Smithers, or should I say C W Lovatt? has done it again, bringing us the best adventure yet in the series about this remarkable and lovable character. Following a raid by pirates and a serious wound from the ever helpful, but sadly unskilled marksman, Lord Brampton, Smithers finds himself washed up and stranded in a place that he later knows to be Australia. The story follows his rescue and travels with a foul mouthed and enigmatic woman, who he comes to respect and love, and is held together by a tune that haunts him throughout the narrative.

Written in a friendly first person, the book grabs hold of its readers and lures them from page to page, tugging at the edges of the consciousness whilst one is not reading, urging one to go back. Lovatt’s skilled narrative and exceptional story telling ensure that no reader gets away without this book becoming a part of themselves. It is, to me, a mark of true genius, when a character becomes so important that the reader becomes slightly infatuated with them, and this is true of Charlie. I cared, and cared deeply, what happened to him.

The amount of research that the author has accomplished to ensure every facet of this story is accurate is phenomenal, ranging from the flora and fauna of the Antipodes, through Waler horses, to folk history, Aboriginal people and traditions and that most elusive of Australian native phenomenon, ‘Dream Time’.

Smithers is his usual very British, stiff upper lip self, where fair play rules, right is right and wrong is everything else. His sense of indignity when confronted by someone who did not play by the unwritten British rule book, is so funny, and yet not too out of the ordinary for a certain type of Englishman – (think Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson!) :

“Well, something had to be done, and no error. This was really too bad, but there was nothing else for it. My defiant glare transformed into an indignant frown. 

Gasping, I managed to wheeze, “Hold on,” spluttering out a mouthful of the ocean, “this ain’t cricket!” 

When this failed to stop him, or indeed, slow him down one iota, my indignation became quite severe, let me tell you, and I declared, “You, sir, are not a gentleman!” 

No doubt your surprise is as great as mine, upon finding that this also produced no effect, and I could see that things were looking pretty grim. 

“But dammit, you’re British!” I cried. 

Then, with a final gasp, I took what little air that I could swallow into my poor starving lungs, and sank beneath the waves. I could hear his enraged fists pummelling the spot ...” 

In this adventure, Smithers, whether as a result of a greater maturity or as a result of a severe bang on the head, begins to experience the gift of ‘sight’, inherited from his mother, which has been touched on in previous works, but never thoroughly examined. In this place, where real time and dream time go hand in hand, he finds a perfect avenue to get to know this other side of his psyche and a lot of the book is about the metaphysical, within the context of Charlie’s own exploration and experience of the theme. This is a brave undertaking for any author and CW Lovatt accomplishes this with exceptional understanding and tact and manages to explain paranormal events in a way that the lay person can understand and which would also be recognisable to a practitioner.

Dream Time is an anomaly in the space time continuum that is experienced by Aboriginal people and it is a subject that I have tried to understand in greater depth since the 1970s. Although this quote comes from the previous book in the series, it more than sums up Charlie’s tentative grasping at the subject: "There was more to our existence than met the eye. Whether it was through some sort of deity, or something else, there was a force at work beyond our capabilities of reckoning, and it defied reason."

This book stretches Charlie as a character and stretches the CW Lovatt as an author, to new levels of greatness and storytelling, weaving a magic spell around Smithers and Mattie as they dance to their music of time, that maybe, just maybe, only they can hear. Charlie probably will never get better from the loss of his wife Loiyan, but he has become better at it and is now able to confidently move on and face his life in all its dimensions. 

With his exceptional use of words, Lovatt paints pictures of the mysterious and beautiful land that is Australia, getting under the skin of the country to its very soul and carrying the reader along in his wake. Whilst on the subject of the author's exceptional use of words, the book contains my favourite quote of all time:
"I bowed my head, wondering yet again, how something so pitifully shallow as my body, could endure something so deep as my grief, and yet live?" Every time I read this I not only relate to it, but get tears in my eyes. 

And in an after word, the author posits a possible explanation for the lilting music that Charlie hears throughout the adventure tying the story together very cleverly, combining fact, folklore and fiction, a skill at which Lovatt excels.

And did Charlie learn to forgive? Read the book and find out! You won’t be disappointed.

About the author:

Image of the author in Australia researching 'Downunder'.
(The image is shared with permission from absolutely no one, having been blatantly stolen by Diana from the author's Face Book page.)

CW Lovatt is the award winning author of the best selling Charlie Smithers Collection, the short story anthology, “And Then It Rained,” and the critically acclaimed “Josiah Stubb: The Siege of Louisbourg.” His latest release,“Interim,” is the second book of the Josiah Stubb trilogy.  
You may read his blog here at Story River
and do read even more about him in this wonderful interview 
Diana talks to CW Lovatt.

© Diana Milne September 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Windsor Castle - part one - a brief history of the Castle in Mediaeval and Renaissance times.

Throughout its millennium plus history, Windsor Castle has always been a 'work in progress'. Four monarchs of England have made the most impression on it: William I, known more often as William the Conqueror, chose the location, founded the castle and established its rough outline and plan; Edward III rebuilt much of it in a Gothic style and established the royal apartments; Charles II transformed it into a Baroque Palace and lastly George IV, who restored a considerable amount of the exterior, altering it to conform with the then modern desire for a romantic castle ideal.

The two eras of history I will be concentrating on in this article are the ones within the time frame of the Mediaeval and Renaissance eras of English history. 

William I began building at Windsor around 1070 and his work was finished by 1086. The castle is one of a chain of fortifications around London and is situated in the only naturally occurring defensive position in this part of the Thames river valley, being 30 metres -  (almost 100 feet) - above the water. Windsor is the only one of this ring of castles to survive the assault of time.
Slightly later than our time frame, this is a model of defensive fortifications and lines of communication around London in the English Civil War.

Norman castles were built to a standard plan. An artificial earth mound supported a keep (motte),
the entrance of which was protected by a fenced yard (bailey). At Windsor, unusually, there were two baileys, an upper and a lower one, known today as the Upper and Lower Wards, one either side of the motte. The outer walls of the castle were surrounded by a ditch which only partially survives.

The moat as it is today
Although the castle was built to keep secure the western route to London, the proximity to a royal hunting forest and to London, made it an ideal residence. As early as 110, Henry I had living quarters there and his grandson, Henry II, built two sets of apartments, a state residence in the lower Ward and a small family lodging in the Upper Ward.

Fine examples of the Bagshot Heath Stone and yellow Bath stone in situ.
When first built, the castle was made from timber but Henry II began to replace the timber with durable stone. Much of it is built of Bagshot Heath stone and the Gothic details in yellow Bath stone. The interior is mostly finished with Bedfordshire stone.

The outer walls are punctuated by towers. Those ordered by Henry II are square whilst those from Henry III are D shaped.

Henry II towers 

The 'Warrior King,' Edward III spent £50,000 transforming the castle from a place of fortification to a Gothic Palace, reflecting his ideal of a chivalric, Christian monarchy. The Lower Ward was transformed by buildings for the College of St. George, founded in 1348. The Chapel that had been built there a century earlier had been dedicated to St Edward the Confessor, but it was Edward who first associated the Castle and the College with St. George, who was the patron saint of the new Order of the Garter.
(I will be writing about St George very soon

Part of the Quadrangle as it is in September 2017
William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester directed the extensive building works taking it to a level that was way and above that necessary for a purely defensive edifice. One particularly impressive example of this is the Great Range, overlooking the Quadrangle, accommodating the King's Great Chamber, St George's Hall and the Royal Chapel. This was lit by 17 tall arched windows and matching fortified entrance towers. This was intended to form a magnificent back drop for the spectacular tournaments and jousts held within the Quadrangle and also functioned as the castle's tilt-yard.

Moving on to the time of Henry VIII, at the time of his death, the king owned over 60 houses and palaces, travelling between his many residences. It was here at Windsor in 1522 that he received the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, to conclude an alliance against France. The only really significant addition to the fabric of the castle ws his addition of a gate that bears his name at the bottom of the Lower Ward, through which visitors leave. 
A gate wide enough for King Henry VIII

Henry is buried in St. George's Chapel together with his favourite wife, Jane Seymour. It was a strange sensation to be standing at the grave of the king... I had very damp eyes 
often in that chapel.
Probably wise, but I would so much have
liked a photograph of my own.

Photo from 'Find a Grave'

Edward VI did not like Windsor and probably would have gone on to bring galleries and gardens to it had he lived long enough, but Mary I refaced many of the of the houses for the Military Knights in the Lower Ward  and her arms, together with the arms of her Spanish husband Philip, can be found hanging on the old belfry tower, known today as the Mary Tudor Tower, the residence of the Governor of the Military Knights.

By the time the first Elizabeth came to the throne, many parts of the castle were in drastic need of repair and a major building campaign was started in the 1570s. Henry VIII's terrace walkway was described as a 'verie great ruyn' and the Western end of the chapel was 'verie ould ruinous and far oute of order redie to fale down, ' (we all have days like that :-) ) The terrace walkway was completely renewed in stone with a very elaborate ornamented balustrade and the Royal Chapel was remodelled and fitted with stalls, a gallery and a panelled ceiling.

Elizabeth also added a long gallery in which to walk and admire the far off view to the north during poor weather  as she loved to be out in the air but hated to be 'russled by the wind'.

I will now conclude with some random shots of the castle....


Unless otherwise attributed, all photos in the blog together with the blog itself are by Diana Milne September 2017 © 
Image of Edward III from English Monarchs